Commentary: The role of the political elite and the normal Filipino in constitutional reform

MANILA: A person of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s vital commitments considering the fact that coming into ability is the shepherding of the Philippines’ transition to a federal kind of authorities for a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic place – an enterprise that requires a comprehensive overhaul of the country’s structure.

Duterte gained on a pledge to split the political and economic maintain the nation’s capital has around its provinces, a truth numerous Filipinos refer to as “Imperial Manila”.

It is a common belief that this is the root induce of economic inequality in the place.

Correspondingly, there is hope that decentralising authorities by federalism will suitable this imbalance by spurring economic progress in regions over and above metropolitan Manila.

As portion of his effort to fulfil this pledge, Duterte issued an executive order in December 2016 to organise a consultative committee on constitutional reform.

The committee will be provided the mandate to “study, carry out consultations and evaluate the provisions of the 1987 Constitution which include but not constrained to the provisions on the structure and powers of the authorities, area governance, and economic procedures”.

Nonetheless, this committee continues to be a strategy on paper as Duterte has nevertheless to formally announce its users.

Therefore, his constitutional reform venture has nevertheless to obtain any sizeable traction.

When the Philippine general public carries on to focus on the require for reforms, there is no vital general public temperament foremost the dialogue.

And with the absence of a definitive directive from the President, Filipinos have nevertheless to be available a apparent and coherent route to constitutional reform.

The war in Marawi has considering the fact that turn out to be a vital pre-profession of Rodrigo Duterte’s authorities – a achievable reason why constitutional reform is on the again-burner. (Picture: REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)


This opacity is even manufactured extra precarious by two problems, the first of which is the deficiency of consensus amongst political elites on how to go about the system of revision by itself.

The Philippine Congress could act as a constituent assembly to rewrite the structure, or they could enact a law calling for the election of a convention who will be mandated do this position.

In the latter alternative, the number of delegates to the convention, the day of the election and other pertinent aspects will still require to be specified.

Duterte and his celebration have introduced a final decision for the previous because they see it as the sensible alternative, to fulfill deadlines.

But critics, comprising teachers and civil modern society personalities, counter that provided the gravity of this political exercising for all Filipinos, deadlines really should not make any difference at all.

All those who thrust for a constitutional convention also imagine this kind of a overall body will be a lot less beholden to Duterte in contrast to the current Philippine Congress. 

Duterte and his allies in the legislature oppose this solution, highlighting the require to comprehensive the revision system by 2019 so that the next half of Duterte’s six-12 months term can emphasis on transition.

Their goal is to elect leaders for the new federal republic when Duterte’s term finishes in 2022.

In addition to delaying their timetable, holding an election for delegates to the constitutional convention will be pricey.

Rodrigo Duterte is viewed on a big screen as he delivers his state of the country address in Congress a person 12 months considering the fact that assuming office environment. (Picture: AFP/Noel Celis)

Deficiency OF Knowledge Among the FILIPINOS

The next difficulty relates to the deficiency of comprehension by the the vast majority of Filipinos of the structure by itself.

A place that values its political procedure and believes that its structure enshrines guiding rules for their way of everyday living would normally celebrate the day its structure is enacted.

But surveys carried out to decide Filipinos’ consciousness about the nation’s Constitution Day are revealing. Anecdotally, amid pupils in faculties, youths in prime universities which include law faculties, and even those who operate in the Philippine authorities – most are not informed that Feb 2 is the Philippines’ Constitution Day.

If Filipinos actually benefit their structure, they would also be inclined to try to remember its ideals, with its expectations for general public office environment firmly entrenched in the country’s political society.

A 2002 Social Weather Station poll showed that 3 out of 4 Filipinos commonly admit that they require to be improved knowledgeable about the structure. Nevertheless, by 2014, a study by Pulse Asia showed that 70 for every cent of Filipinos still have “little or no know-how” about the countrywide constitution.

Numerous Filipinos glance earlier their leader’s crass communicate and see a down-to-earth, anti-institution determine who empathises with their struggles. (Picture: AFP/Noel Celis)

These data do not inspire self confidence at all on the country’s readiness for constitutional reform.


Revising the structure is portion of a broader political reform effort in the Philippines that really should seek out to suitable pathologies in the current structure. These are prescriptions which may perhaps have been intended with great intentions but have inevitably turn out to be debilitating to the political procedure it governs.

For occasion, the 1987 Constitution prohibits area officers from holding office environment for extra than 3 consecutive 3-12 months phrases.

The function of this prohibition is to safeguard against the creation of area political dynasties.

Nevertheless, this prohibition does not address conflicts of curiosity that come up with the craze of relatives users holding a variety of authorities positions.

Appropriately, Duterte really should get started his constitutional revision venture with diagnosing pathologies in the 1987 Constitution.

His authorities really should also carry out a popular and substantial general public session system with the advisory committee of the President moderating.

Aside from shifting to a federal structure of authorities, Duterte’s authorities really should also take into consideration perennial problems that have plagued the Philippines and strategies to resolve them. For occasion, he really should take into consideration economic liberalisation and maximizing the powers of the Philippine Commission on Human Legal rights.

Duterte had manufactured an first go to lower the Commission on Human Rights’s funds, in response to its criticism of his controversial war on medicine, which has claimed hundreds of life. (Picture: AFP/Noel Celis)

Prescribing an open economic regime can convey in extra international investors, which in convert can supply extra employment chances for Filipinos. Supplying the Human Legal rights Commission prosecutorial powers can suppress, if not eradicate, the human legal rights abuses perpetuated by safety forces.

This is unquestionably a challenging challenge but as dependable citizens, Filipinos will have to actively take part in any long term hearings and session periods involving the structure.

This organised detailed general public dialogue can also serve as a refresher training course of types on constitutional education for Filipinos.

As a result, Duterte and his allies will have to match this substantial enterprise in their timetable, to uphold the legitimacy of the constitution’s revision system.

The new structure will have to be extra reflective of the periods and responsive to their wants.

Any attempt at constitutional revision with out meaningfully engaging the general public will have to be turned down by Filipinos.

In truth, Filipinos will have to be well prepared to current clever and coherent proposals as to what their new constitution really should consist of.

This is the best way to make sure the revision system will usher an era of newfound advancement and renewed optimism.

Critically, Filipinos will have to arrive out of this momentous exercising having a business comprehension of the variations manufactured from the 1987 Constitution as effectively as the vital tenets set up in this new a person.

Michael Henry Yusingco is a legislative and plan expert, law lecturer and a non-resident investigate fellow at the Ateneo School of Authorities. He also contributes to the Asian Reports Affiliation of Australia and a common column at the Philippine Everyday Inquirer.

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